It was hot as hell in Limerick city. Jimmy walked into the back room with mail in his hand.
‘Thank you,’ Mia said, scanning through the letters, most of them junk, until she came to a postcard depicting a busty blonde model in a red bikini walking out of the waves at some tropical beach. Underneath the picture was the caption ‘Wish You Were Her’, and someone had hastily scribbled ‘(and straight)’ after it. Mia flipped over the postcard and read the five words: ‘On holidays. Thank you. Jacob.’
‘Men,’ Mia muttered, glancing at the postage stamp, which told her the card came from Portugal.
She got up slowly and tested her legs before attempting to walk. She had broken her knee in the train crash and even after physiotherapy she still had a limp. She told Jimmy she was going for lunch and went off down the street towards a small restaurant, where Jessica had already ordered.
‘Hot,’ Mia grunted before sitting down.
‘Yeah, I am.’
‘Smile, kid,’ Jessica said.
Mia responded by sticking out her tongue and pulling a face. Jessica shook her head and took a bite out of her lunch roll.
‘I don’t know how you can eat that at this hour of the day,’ Jessica said, pointing at the plate of chips with melted cheese and garlic lathered over it.
‘You don’t know what you’re missing.’
‘I know whose lips I won’t be kissing,’ Jessica said as Mia stabbed two chunky chips dripping in cheese and garlic into her mouth.
Mia let her eyes circle the people in the restaurant and stopped at the black woman with the brown hair and dark eyes who had just walked in and was ordering at the counter. She was wearing a sleeveless white top and was staring at Mia, who diverted her eyes back to Jessica.
‘Don’t look,’ Mia whispered, ‘but there’s a woman at the counter with long brown hair. Watch her when she sits down.’
Jessica waited for the woman to walk past them and quickly studied her.
‘Bit old for you, isn’t she?’ Jessica said smirking.
‘Is that all you think about?’
‘Since I sold the business all I do is watch gay porn and wait for you to come home.’
‘Yeah, we’re going to have to talk about getting you a hobby,’ Mia said. ‘But this is the third time today I’ve seen that woman. And yesterday I saw her twice. Last week I saw her three times.’
‘Does she look familiar from somewhere?’
‘Maybe you should take a picture on your phone and give it to the cops?’
‘No. I’m probably just being paranoid.’
‘How’s your shoulder?’
‘Never better,’ Mia replied.
‘Any aches or pains?’
‘I don’t like the sound of that no.’
‘You just want me to take a half day so you can lure me home for whatever sex game you’ve spent the morning watching on the internet.’
‘There are things I didn’t even know were possible!’
Mia rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help smiling at the look on Jessica’s face. They finished their lunch and, hand in hand, strolled back to the tattoo parlor in the August sunshine. Jimmy was behind the counter when Mia got there.
‘You can take off if you want,’ Mia said. ‘Me and Jessica can finish up here. You’ll want to pack for your holiday.’
‘Going anywhere nice?’ Jessica asked.
‘Spain,’ said Jimmy.
‘Off you go,’ Mia said. ‘Tell Megan I said hi.’
‘Will do,’ Jimmy said, grabbing his car keys and walking out.
‘This place could do with a good cleaning,’ Jessica declared.
‘Well, you’re standing there doing nothing.’
‘I love you too,’ Jessica muttered sardonically.
‘Give us a kiss then,’ Mia said, deliberately puffing her garlic-breath in Jessica’s direction and puckering up her lips. Jessica deftly ducked out of the way when Mia grabbed her arms and wrestled her towards the counter.
‘You have two seconds to let go of me,’ Jessica said. ‘Or you’ll be back in ICU.’
‘What are you, a vampire?’ Mia said, laughing as Jessica wriggled free and ran into the backroom.
‘And do some cleaning while you’re back there,’ Mia shouted after her before turning around to face the woman who had come into the shop unnoticed. It was the woman she had seen in the restaurant.
‘Can’t get good help these days,’ Mia said and smiled.
‘Oh, hello,’ the woman said looking around.
‘We’re not actually open for business today,’ Mia said, going towards the woman. ‘I’m just giving the place a bit of a clean, but I can tell that you’re not here for a tattoo.’
‘Isn’t that judging a book by its cover?’ the woman said, looking Mia straight in the face.
‘Hmm,’ Mia began. ‘Well, you see it’s actually you being judgmental because you assumed that I looked at the clothes you were wearing and the way you carry yourself and thought, this woman does not want and never will want a tattoo—which also suggests that you think my clients are slack-jawed adolescents and men who listen to AC/DC on the car stereo when in fact many of them are accountants, businessmen, lawyers, local politicians —and women, who have some of the most unique tattoos I have ever done.’
‘No, you don’t,’ Mia said locking the door. ‘But you’re not leaving here until you tell me why you’re following me around.’
‘I was just looking for directions.’
‘Wrong answer,’ Mia said. ‘You’ve been following me for the best part of two weeks and I want to know why.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘I—uh—it’s hard for me to explain,’ the woman said, taking a piece of folded paper from her handbag and spreading it out on the counter in front of Mia. ‘I just assumed that because you never came looking for me you didn’t want to know, and when I went looking for you I found there was a problem with records—’
‘This is my birth certificate,’ Mia said, picking up the piece of paper and studying it.
‘When you were born I requested a copy,’ the woman said. ‘They messed up and sent me the original instead of the copy. I understand the copy was destroyed in a fire? That’—she pointed at the document—‘is the only thing I had to help me trace you. It was all I had to give the detective I hired.’
‘So you’re claiming to be my mother?’ Mia asked.
The woman took a step towards Mia.
‘May I?’ she asked, gently holding the bottom of Mia’s t-shirt.
Mia nodded. The woman lifted it up and looked down at the small kidney-shaped birthmark on her back. ‘Well, that removes any of my doubts.’
The woman took a step backwards and held out her hand.
‘My name is Sarah Dillinger. I used to be Sarah Talley.’
‘Mia,’ said Mia, the birth certificate trembling in her left hand while she extended her right hand to shake Sarah’s. ‘Mia Talley.’
iGod and other works are available to purchase on AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, KOBO and SMASHWORDS.